Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

Do not nap more than a half-hour during the day. If you do, it is a sign you are getting too little sleep at night, and you will be unable to sleep properly when it is time to go to bed.

Don’t go to bed if you feel completely awake. Read, watch television (but don’t do it to excess), listen to music, or whatever makes you feel relaxed. Do not spend too much time reading or watching TV in bed. Do not work or study in bed. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Try not to put a computer in your bedroom.

Don’t forget to pray and meditate. Making quiet time and clearing your mind paves the way for inner peace and for sleep. You can also use visualization (see “The Power of Visualization”) to make your mind and body more receptive to sleep.

You’ve heard it before, but toss that cup of coffee if you’re drinking one 6 to 8 hours before bedtime. This goes for that Diet Coke or even that cup of caffeinated tea.

Do not smoke before bedtime. If you can’t yet kick the habit, cut back at night. Tobacco is a stimulant. Don’t rely on sleeping pills, Benadryl, or Tylenol PM to help you sleep. Falling asleep should occur naturally. Be careful when using antidepressants. Check all medication you are taking for side effects. Also, remember that stopping medication, such as sleeping pills, may cause sleeplessness. Avoid drinking more than one glass of wine before bed. Alcohol can disturb your sleep, even though it may make you feel drowsy at first. Ideally, you should avoid alcohol at night.

Have a late-night snack, but nothing too sweet or too heavy. Opt for a glass of milk, a small dish of ice cream, a piece of fruit, or a hot dog. Regular exercise may help you sleep, but avoid strenuous activity two hours before bedtime. Adrenaline keeps you awake at night. Exposure to sunlight promotes the creation of vitamin E, which helps you sleep. Plus, outdoor activity may make you more tired.

Darken your bedroom completely and make sure that it is neither too hot nor too cold. Put your worries out of your mind before going to bed. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you solve problems more creatively.

Be aware of any emotions, such as grief, that could disturb sleep, or any psychiatric conditions, such as depression. Medical conditions, such as cystitis, arthritis, enlarged prostates, or heart problems may interfere with sleep. Consult your doctor on how to get the proper rest.

Be aware that aging may change your sleep patterns (see “Sleep in the Golden Years”).Avoid excessive mental stimulation before bedtime. College students should stop studying at least half an hour before they plan to go to sleep.

Avoid arguments or overly emotional conversations before bed. Avoid stressful situations, such as confronting a loved one. Avoid taking or making phone calls after eleven p.m. or while in bed, whichever comes first.

Play soft music at night to help you, and your children if you have them, fall asleep. Avoid constantly getting up to soothe a crying child, and do not give the child medication to get him or her to fall asleep.

If you are jet-lagged, don’t fight your body’s internal clock, but do try to get back on a normal sleep schedule within a week of returning from your trip. If you are a shift-worker, tell yourself it is not only okay to sleep during the day, it’s a necessity.

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